Longtime, no update. The internet has been decidedly crappy down the West Coast. Very expensive and very slow. So this is the fist real opportunity I have got to update the blog. And now I have got such a backlog of diary entries that the task of updating it is quite intimidating. Ah well, best get started then!
Tuesday 24th October 2006
Eary start today to catch the Easyrider Bus at 6:45am. There are 14 people on the bus and initial impressions are good (the driver also seems really nice and friendly).
Most of the day is spent driving through seemingly neverending scrublands. The landscape is very flat and the road stretches for miles with no other traffic, or much to see (apart from a burnt-out road train about 100km out of Broome). We stopped off at 80 Mile Beach. Saw a fisherman land a huge shark and beachcombed for shells. Again, as in Broome, the water is an amazing colour and the place has a decidedly languid air.
Arrive at our first overnight stop - Pardoo Cattle Station - at about 4pm. Saw fan-tailed eagles beside the road and my first real-wild-kangaroos! The people running the joint were what I imagined to be typical oz farmers - tough as nails and as coarse as the roughest sandpaper... and that was just the Sheila! Interesting place, with myriad bugs all over the shop (spiders, grasshoppers, beetles) and a lovely setting among the trees (a welcome break form the scrub!). We had a nice swim in the sea as the sun set, then had a barbecue with the group. Good spread of tucker: Kangaroo steaks, lambchops, kangaroo sausages, loads of different salads.
So far the group seems to be a really good mix of people and the tour leader is lovely (Rebecca). She's really enthusiatic about everything and that makes all the difference when covering vast areas of nothingness (she's interested in Aboriginal culture, so has little stories to tell us all the time). Overall Pardoo was a lovely place and really relaxing. Slept like a log in a proper bed.
NB Here in Kalbarri (where I am writing this) you pay ($1) to turn the screen of the computer on for 10 minutes, so I am typing this blind, so as to save money!
Wednesday 25th October 2006
Earlyish start (7am). Landscape starts getting more interesting with the beginnings of the hamersley ranges. There is already water in some of the water holes which is untypically early this year. They must have had some of the rain we had in Broome here too. The only oyther vehicles about are either campervans or road trains (interesting fact #1: road trains with 4 trailers are only allowed in certain parts of Australia, and this is one of them). Saw the giant salt mountains of Port Hedland gleaming in the sun and various other industrial activity. Arrive at Karijini National Park at about lunchtime. Walked to circular pool at foot of impressive gorge. Stunning scenery and lots of interesting flowers. Continued walk, stopping at 4 different pools to swim. Water was lovely and clear and warm. So rerfreshing! Played around on a rope swing, which was great fun. Walked via fern pool to Fortescue falls and then back to the bus. The falls as Fern Pool were great to stand under - it gave my back a wonderful massage (which, touch wood, has been holding up well).
The was actually some heavy rain in the morning (luckily while we were driving), so there was plenty of water about and when the sun came out the colours were incredibly vibrant. Got back to our campite after dark and slept under canvas. All in all a wonderful day.
PS Saw a large snaKE IN THE np - PROBABLY A wESTERN bROWN (DEADLY!), WHICH WAS A BIT OF A WORRY, ESPECIALLY AS IT STARTED MOVING TOWARDS US WHILE WE WATCHED IT!).
tHURSDAY 26TH oCTOBER 2006
tODAY WE DROVE FROM aUSKI (ON THE EDGE OF THE kARIJINI nATIONAL pARK) TO eXMOUTH. tHE FIRST PART WAS THROUGH THE BEAUTIFUL SCENERY OF THE nATIONAL pARK (WHERE WE STOPPED TO WALK UP TO A LOOK OUT, PART WAY UP THE SLOPES OF mT. bRUCE. tHE LANDSCAPE GOT DRIER AND FLATTER AS WE WENT ON. aND THE WEATHER GOT HOTTER - EVERYONE ON THE BUS WAS RATHER OVERHEATED! wE STOPPED OFF EN ROUTE AT THE nANTURRA rOADHOUSE ON THE aSHBURTON rIVER (MORE dEVON NAME CONNECTIONS!). iT WAS MOST REFRESHING AFETER THE HEAT OF THGE BUS). sPOTTED EMUS AND KANGAROSS ON THE WAY TO eXMOUTH. iNITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF eXMOUTH ARE THAT IT IS VERY SPRAWLING AND THERE IS LOTS OF NEW DEVELOPMENT GOING ON (V. EXPENSIVE, APPARENTLY). jUST BEFORE SUNSET WE WENT TO THE TURTLE SANCTUARY AT THE END OF CAPE rANGE (NO TURTLES, UNFORTUNATELY). hAD A LOVELY SWIM IN THE iNDIAN oCEAN ALTHOUGH WE COULDN'T SEE MUCH UNDERWATER AS THE SUN WAS GETTING LOW AND THE SEA WAS QUITE ROUGH. iN THE EVENIHG WE WENT TO THE PUB IN eXMOUITH FOR PIZZA AND BEER. i ASKED IF i GOT A DISCOUNT FOR BEING FROM eXMOUTH IN eNGLAND (ONLY A SMALL LIE!). sHE SAID NO... BUT THAT i WOULD GET A FREE DRINK! bONUS.
oUR ROOM SMELLED A BIT OF FISH (SHARING WITH A COUPLE OF FISHERMEN), BUT THERE ARE REALLY NICE PEOPLE ON THE eASYRIDER, SO THAT MAKES UP FOR IT).
fRIDAY 27TH oCTOBER 2006
aLL THE THINGS AROUND eXMOUTH REQUIRE TRANSPORT, SO I DECIDE TO MOVE ONTO cORAL bAY TODAY, WHICH IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER (ABOUT 150 MILES!).
sET OFF AT 7ISH (turn screen on to check that all is okay and realise that I must have hit Caps Lock halfway through writing (oops!). Can't remember the shortcut to change it back, so will leave it for comedy effect!
Drove up into Shot Hole Canyon in the Cape Range National Park (not really on our itinerary, but we manage to persuade Rebecca to make a detour!). Beautiful Mediterraneanesque landscapes. Loads of termite mounds on road (well not literally on the road) from Exmouth to Coral Bay. Arrive in Coral Bay at about 10am (1.5 hrs behind schedule thanks to our little detour). I'm sharing a room in the Nigaloo Club Backpackers with Mitch, Clay, Victoria and Alex from the Easyrider bus. Unpack and then head to beach for snorkelling, swimming, sunbathing, etc. Really beautiful beach and sea. Loads of different fish and coral, just off shore. Amazing Parrot Fish (munching on the coral) and huge clams, which clamped up when I stuck my finger in (only joking!) - swishing water in was enough to make them do their stuff. I cooked dinner with my roomies (such a nice group of people) and then played table tennis with Mitch (2-1 to England)!
PS Also saw a shoal of cuttle fish earlier in the day.
PPS A man from Darwin showed us his crocodile injury (how Australian is that !)
PPPS Sea feels surprisingly cool after Broome (only 23/24C)
Saturday 28th October 2006
Walked left along the beach today to Pasradise Beach. Wonderful snorkelling. Millions of fish - just like swimming in an aquarium. Got back for lunch and a rest from the midday sun. Ate first Aussie Meat Pie!
Walked to shark nursery (natural breeding area and creche for sharks) in the afternoon after a quick game of table tennis with Mitch (2-1 to England again). Didn't see any sharks but had a snorkel and saw some fish. Walked back into brisk wind - reminded me of both Furteventur and the time we cycled into Guinea-Bissau! I cooked risotto for the troops and we scored some free cream cakes from the girl at the bakery (they would have been thrown out otherwise). You wouldn't believe the outbreak of excitement that that caused! Being the party animals that we are, an early night was had by all (it's very tiring this holidaying lark).
PS Saw large lizard today (Goanna) and took some good photos of it, which I will post when I get the chance).
Sunday 29th October 2006
Today was my best day of the trip so faR (i THINK - IT'S NEARLY ALL BEEN GOOD UP TO NOW). mITCH AND i WALKED RIGHT ALONG THE BEACH IN THE MONRING. wE WENT AS FAR AS WE COULD GO BEFORE THE COAST TURNED BACK ON ITSELF. oUT ON THE SANDY CAPE THE SEA WAS AN UNBELIEVALBE SHADE OF BLUE. wE SAW MANTA RAYS FROLLICKING JUST OFFSHORE (and a turtle). Clay and Victoria came to join us and we all went snorkelling (different corals from yesterday and all sorts of fish). We walked back along the beach, stopping for an impromptu lunch en route. Then we got to the nursery for the sharks and saw loads of reef sharks and sting rays -only a few feet away - an absolutely amazing experience. Got back for a bit of lunch and a snooze. Woke up for chocolate raisins and a nice glass of cold coke (courtesy of Clay). Played table tennis again to take it to 3-0 in the series to England and a series whitewash! An omen for the Ashes, perhaps?
Went to watch the sunset on the beach - absolutely gorgeous. The sun looked huge setting behind the boats in the bay. We then cooked together again (the group dynamic is working well!). Pasta with tomato, sausage and spinach. Yummo. Got more free cream cakes from the girl in the bakery.
After dinner walked out into bush behind Coral Bay to look at the stars - (note to former colleagues: my leaving-present-torch is powerful indeed)!
PS Place we went snorkelling yesterday was the same place that we saw all the sting rays and sharks today!
Monday 30th October 2006
Put contact lenses in this morning to make the most of the last day of snorkelling in Coral Bay. Made use of a free day's snorkel hire (courtesy of Easyrider). Walked left along the beach with Mitch, but he slipped and cut his foot, so, as Mitch didn't want to act as shark bait, I was left to snorkel alone. Again, there was a brilliant range of fish in crystal clear water. Snorkelled until I started to get cold (a first on this trip!). Walked along to the cape - to see what was around the corner (Dad!). More azure/turquoise/aquamarine seas, sand dunes and endless blue skies. So gorgeous (I cant stop using these superlatives!). After lunch and a snooze (and an update of my diary) I went for a mammoth swim with Clay to try and retrieve some sunscreen that Victoria had left on a boat from a trip earlier in the day. The swim was in vain, as the sunscreen was locked away in the cabin, but I enjoyed getting some proper exercise nonetheless.
In the evening we walked into bush to watch sunset and spot kangaroos. Saw a kangaroo silhouetted nicely against the sunset, jumping along a ridge. Very nice.
Got back to find that the (v. overpriced) supermarket was shut, so had burger and (loads of) salaD AT THE HOSTEL INSTEAD. gOT GIVEN CHANGE TWICE SO WAS QUIDS IN! mORE CREAM CAKES FROM GIRL AT THE BAKERY. WE'RE ALL GETTTING A BIT SICK OF THEM BY NOW - BUT THEY STILL PROVIDED ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF cORAL bAY.
oVERALL, cORAL bAY IS A FANTASTIC PLACE. mUCH QUIETER THAN i EXPECTED - THERE ARE SO FEW PEOPLE ABOUT IT IS EASY TO FIND YOUR OWN SECLUDED SPOT ON THE BEACH. gREAT HOSTEL, GREAT PEOPLE... (especially the latter). ALL IN ALL i HAD A WONDERFUL TIME AND WOULD LOVE TO GO BACK AND EXPLORE THE nIGALOO REEF AND cAPRE rANGE naTIONAL pARK A BIT MORE. oNE DAY...